Without a firm grounding in relevant facts and history, it is easy for a reporter to take shelter in outdated memes or incorrect notions. In a recent New Yorker column, “How Doctors Could Thwart Health-Care Reform,” the author unfortunately does both.
Improving public health and the health of our nation has been top priority for the American Medical Association throughout our rich and storied history. In fact, it is our mission to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. We evaluate proposals based on their merits and have certainly opposed reform efforts we deemed wrongheaded or harmful. In recent years, our organization–and physicians across our country–put skin in the game, fought for principles we believe in, and strongly advocated for health reform. Let me tell you how:
In 2006, AMA leadership made a commitment to advancing health insurance coverage for all Americans, fueling our support for the Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010. Regardless of which party is in the White House or in control of Congress, we will continue to be a strong advocate for universal health insurance coverage until this goal is attained. Twenty million more people have access to care today as a result of this law – which is improving health and helping people live more productive lives. While no law is perfect, we have consistently argued for improvements that will help both patients and physicians.
In 2015, after a decade of fierce advocacy, the AMA also worked with Congress to secure bipartisan passage of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, the most transformative legislation to affect health care delivery for our nation’s senior citizens in more than 30 years. As a result of this law, we have the potential to improve care and lower overall health care costs through a new framework for rewarding physicians who provide higher-value care.
The AMA is also shaping the future of health care. Because of our collaborative work, a quarter million Americans self-screened for prediabetes; we described and published a textbook on health system science, which will become the third pillar of medical education alongside basic science and clinical rotations; and we supported productive digital health innovation by creating connection points between physicians and innovators.
It is our unwavering commitment to our patients and our profession that called us to lead a national conversation about responsible opioid prescribing. This year, we saw notable progress in this urgent fight, from fewer prescriptions written to better access to Naloxone. It was AMA analysis that led the U.S. Dept. of Justice and state regulators to move to block two proposed health mega mergers. It was a new campaign through TruthinRx.org that stimulated grassroots pressure to address growing concerns about escalating drug prices.
As we enter a new era under the new administration and Congress, the AMA’s policy-making body reaffirmed its commitment to health care reform that improves access to care for all patients. A core principle is that any proposed policy should not cause an individual currently covered to become uninsured. We remain committed to ensuring proposed changes in health coverage provide adequate access, choice and coverage and the advancement of high quality care. These are important values for patients, physicians, and our country.
In the headline of his New Yorker column, the author implicitly alleges that every proposal for reform is good reform, but I can assure you this is not true. What is true is that patients and their doctors can depend on our thoughtful review of national health reform proposals in the months ahead.
Physicians know that people without insurance live sicker and die younger. This is why the AMA will hold true to our mission and work to increase access to health care and improve the health of our nation.